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Historic Camden hosts Revolutionary War Field Days

Posted: October 28, 2011 2:00 p.m.
Updated: October 31, 2011 5:00 a.m.

Once again, the acrid smell of campfire smoke and the trill of the fife will fill the air when the armies of the Revolution pitch their campaign tents on the grounds once occupied by British forces in 1780. In the camps will be some 500 American, British and Hessian troops and civilian interpreters.

If you like history or seek a nifty family adventure, you won’t want to miss Historic Camden Revolutionary War Site’s 41st annual Revolutionary War Field Days Nov. 5-6. The gates will be open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. each day and parking is free. Daily admission is $8 for adults; $6 for seniors over 62 and military, $4 for ages 6-12, and free for kids under six. A $20 family package for two adults and three children under 12 is also available, as well as a group rate for 15 or more students, scouts in uniform and tour groups. Call 423-9841 for group arrangements; also leave pets at home. Food concessions include barbecue from Smokin’ & Grillin’, Pizza Hut fare, and Mae Frances’s hot dogs and burgers -- or picnic on your own.

Nestled among the historic houses on the lower ground will be the civilian camp where skilled craftsmen will demonstrate using colonial methods the making of items such as wooden buckets (cooper), leather (hide tanner), wooden spoons and bowls (treen maker), wood ware (joiner), pewter ware (pewtersmith) and iron tools (blacksmith). Members of the Carolina Ladies Aid Society demonstrate women’s home arts including soap making, weaving, and cooking.

The American camp set up in the field behind the museum’s gift shop will include members of the 2nd South Carolina, 2nd and 6th North Carolina, 1st Maryland and 7th Virginia regiments of the Continental Army, also Campbell’s, Locke’s, Musgrove Mill and other militia units. Next to the Kershaw-Cornwallis House (British headquarters historically) in a precisely laid out camp will be the British army. Visitors will meet British Regulars, such as the 7th Royal Fusiliers and 42nd, 33rd and 84th Royal Highland Reg’ts, as well as Provincial units (American Loyalists who fought for the king), including Banastre Tarleton’s British Legion, David Fannings’s Reg’t., and the Royal North Carolina Regiment, which was historically garrisoned at Camden, as was the 33rd regiment and British Legion.

Encamped in the reconstructed 1780 Southeast Redoubt will be the miter-capped Grenadier Company of the Regiment Von Bose and the Jager Companie von Roeder, Hessian regiments who were hired by King George III to fight in the Revolution. Historically, some 30,000 German soldiers fought in the war (not at Camden, but at the Siege of Charleston) and many settled in America afterwards. On Sunday morning, there will be a German church service, or Hessian Church Parade, in the Hessian Camp at 11 a.m. Rev. Joel Osborn will officiate at an 18th century Anglican Church service in the Kershaw House Basement at 10:30 a.m.

After weapons inspection each day, men under arms will take to the field in front of the Kershaw House and at 1:30pm the roar of the cannon will announce the daily battle. Saturday’s battle will be tactics from the August 16, 1780, Battle of Camden, a disastrous defeat for the American historically. Crown Forces will set up a court in front of the mansion immediately afterward the engagement to condemn captured prisoners and reward valiant British soldiers. Sunday’s 1:30 p.m. skirmish will be a Commander’s Choice TBA of one of the battles fought in the Carolinas during the Southern Campaign. Periodically both days there will be artillery demonstrations in the artillery camp near the British camp.

At 11 a.m. on Saturday, authors Sheila Ingle and Chris Swager will talk about heroine Martha Bratton of Huck’s Defeat and other women of the Revolution in the Kershaw House basement. Saturday morning and afternoon there will be guided tours of the museum floor of Kershaw House, also entertainment by harpist Marybeth Adams. The house will be open again for tours on Sunday, and visitors will enjoy meeting “Joseph Kershaw” and his son on the front porch at 11 a.m. and 3 p.m.

History buffs won’t want to miss historian/author Jim Piecuch’s talk at 4 p.m. Saturday on the infamous “Bloody Ban” Tarleton and the controversial Buford Massacre of May 1780, sponsored by the Col. Joseph Kershaw Chapter of the Sons of the American Revolution. Several of Piecuch’s books will be available for sale. Autographed copies of books by authors Ingle, Swager, Jack Parker, Patrick O’Kelley and others will be available at Sutlers Row or in front of the gift shop.

Always popular is the Period Fashion Show held in the Kershaw House Garden at 2:30 p.m. on Saturday. Moderator Anthea Manning of St. Augustine does an outstanding job describing the clothes modeled by military and civilian re-enactors. At 4:30 p.m. members of the 6th N.C. Reg’t. will judge the soup entries for the annual Regimental Campfire Cook-off Competition. On the mansion’s front steps the Fife & Drum Corp will give lively performances at 3 p.m. on Saturday and 11:30 a.m. and 3 p.m. Sunday. Nearby Saturday afternoon, all ages can play colonial games at 3:15 p.m. and kids will be recruited into the King’s Army by the 42nd Reg’t. at 3:45 p.m.

The McCaa House front porch will be the stage for Balladeer Bob Young from Columbia, who will tell tales and sing songs pertaining to the Southern Campaign at 10:30 a.m. and 4 p.m. Saturday and 12:45 and 3:30 p.m Sunday. Autographed copies of his book, “Life, Liberty and Happiness,” will be available for purchase. Throughout the camps, re-enactors and demonstrators will offer many other 18th century kids activities sure to please. And a stop at the pillories and the stocks (Eagle Scout projects) is a must for a fun family photo op.

Both days the Kershaw County Amateur Radio Club will man an information tent near the food concessions in the main parking lot. They will display amateur radio equipment and demonstrate the Morse code. Kids of all ages are encouraged to try their hand at keying in H-E-L-L-O in Morse code or key their names on an oscillator.

The club will also have a foxhole radio display for attendees to view. Ham operators will be on hand to explain its operation as well as how hams often assist emergency personnel by providing communication during disasters and weather events (club members worked with the National Weather Service in Columbia to provide weather and damage details during the recent tornado in Elgin).

Be sure to stroll down Sutlers Row. Historically, sutlers were licensed “to reside in or follow the camp with food, liquors, and… items for general use.”

Field Days “tented” shops and their merchants are known for the diversity of quality period wares including clothing, jewelry, hand-blown glassware, handcrafted slip and stoneware pottery, handmade trunks, tables, knives, books, leather accessories, reproduction period fabrics, and charming accoutrements.

Crown Point Bakery from New York typifies an 18th century sutler who supplied food for the army. The crude tables in their tent are laden with large wheels of cheese and delicious breads and cookies that were baked in huge colonial-style ovens. Each day baker Yonne loads up his horse-drawn red wagon and hawks his wares in the camps and to visitors passing by.

The fire-roasted coffee, tea and hot chocolate sold at Coffee Houfe from Sweetwater, TN, compliments the baked goods perfectly, plus their homemade sundries, candles and soaps make wonderful gifts. A visit the museum gift shop in the Cunningham house for books, souvenirs and Camden-related merchandise makes a good last stop before heading back into the 21str century.

For a schedule of events, visit www.historic-camden.net. For information, call 432-9841, fax 432-3851, or e-mail hiscamden@truvista.net. Historic Camden Revolutionary War Site is located at 222 Broad Street, Camden, SC 29020, 1.4 miles from Highway 521 North/Camden from Exit 98.

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